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Hike, run, plunge: Ways to play on New Year’s Day

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It’s a day to reset and restart, a way to wash off the old and bring in the new.

And let’s be honest: We can use some renewed hope for a better year to come.

So if you’re head isn’t still ringing from the New Year’s Eve festivities, here are a few fun ways to kick off 2022 with some fresh air:

First Day Hikes

Take a hike, 2021 – we’re ready to stroll into 2022.

What better way to start the new year (and get rid of some of those extra holiday cookie calories) than getting out for a hike?

The First Day Hike program, created by America’s State Parks, encourages people to enjoy the outdoors on the first day of the year – it’s a national effort for “families to experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources found in the outdoors so that they may be inspired to take advantage of these treasures throughout the year,” California State Parks officials said.

There are more than 40 state parks and 50 guided hikes taking place across California, with a few fun tours listed in Southern California. There’s also no shortage of others that people could do on their own.

For a list of all the State Parks First Day Hikes, or ideas if you want to venture out without a guide, go online to parks.ca.gov. You’ll also be able to check if the recent rains impact the guided tours.

Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach will be offering hikes on the inland side of PCH on New Years Day. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Crystal Cove State Park may be known for its historic cottages, but a tour planned for New Year’s Day will explore more of the back country.

People can meander among the bird, butterflies, buckwheat and maybe even see some bobcats during the 3-mile moderate hike.

Meet at the Berns Amphitheater, the hike starts at 9 a.m. Parking is $15 for day use.

Crystal Cove Interpretive Naturalist Winter Bonnin said the goal is for people to start the new year making connections with nature and teach people how to appreciate what we have in our own backyard.

“Get outside, breathe the fresh air, see the birds, smell the ocean and just be out in a pristine and treasured environment,” she said.

While the hike doesn’t go to the beach, people can later take the tunnel under Pacific Coast Highway down to shore.

After a “First Day Hike” in El Moro backcountry, take the underground tunnel down to Crystal Cove State Beach to enjoy New Year’s Day. (File photo by Ana Venegas/SCNG)

“We are so lucky to have this beautiful backyard,” Bonnin said. “Start the new year off right, physically and mentally, with fresh air and good vibes and beautiful scenery.”

If you’re not a morning person and want more beach scenes, check out a guided hike of San Onofre State Beach. Meet at the Trestles Trailhead at Christianitos Road and El Camino Real at 2 p.m. to hike down to the beach to check out the tidepools during the negative low tide, passing through coastal sage scrub and riparian habitat along the way.

The hike is suitable for all ages and will last from one and a half to two hours.

State Parks interpreter Cryssie Moreno said it’s also a great hike for birders interested in seeing local species up close, possibly seeing snowy plovers along the way.

“I’ll be talking about the natural history and the cultural history,” she said, with plans to educate participants on everything from the Native American inhabitants to what makes the surf breaks unique.

The First Day Hikes led by State Parks encourages people to start the year in the fresh air, with several guided hikes happening around the region, including down to San Onofre State Park. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The big afternoon tide swing will allow for great exploration of the tide pools, where people can see first-hand the intertidal species that lives in the tidepools, such as anemones, crabs, snails and more.

The First Day Hikes program has inland folks covered as well.

A guided tour is planned for Silverwood Lake, located off Highway 138 about 20 miles north of San Bernardino. The hike, planned for 10:30 a.m., is rated easy and suitable for any age. Meet at the Silverwood Lake Nature Center.

The hike will be about 1.5 miles to 2 miles, and will go from the nature center to the meadow area, with lake views along the way.

A few other Southern California trails with beautiful views include the Leo Carrillo State Park trailhead that overlooks the rocky coves and ocean, an area just north of Malibu, or the vast network of trails throughout Palos Verdes that also boast seaside scenic views.

If you want a totally different landscape to scope out, and don’t mind a bit of a drive, check out the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park tour, which will take people to the Panorama Overlook Trail, which looks over the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point. Keep an eye open for bighorn sheep and other interesting wildlife.

Dennis Stephen, regional interpretive specialist for the area, said people are often “amazed and awestruck” by the desert views.

“There’s just so much in the desert, amazing desert plants are always special,” he said.

The tour starts at 2 p.m. and is expected to last until about 4:30 p.m., so you’ll get an epic view as the sun sets on the first day of the year.

Stick around to enjoy the stars, he said. The area is a national “dark sky” park.

“Depending on cloud cover, we have an amazing dark sky where you get to enjoy tons of stars. The sky is just filled with stars,” he said.

It’s a 2 mile tour, but can be steep and challenging at parts and people should know their own abilities. Wear sturdy shoes and bring at least a liter of water, a hat and a flashlight.

If stargazing sounds amazing, but you don’t want to trek all the way to the desert, check out a “star party” happening at Caspers Wilderness Park. It happens every month, this one landing on New Year’s Day.

Caspers Wilderness Park, on the Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano, is about 9 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean where there is less marine layer distortion and light pollution from nearby urban areas. The Milky Way is often visible to the naked eye, according to the OC Parks event announcement.

Wear warm clothes and bring a camp chair and blanket. Bring your own telescope,  binoculars and photography equipment, though none are required to attend.

Cloudy weather will cancel the event, so call beforehand at 949-923-2210 ensure the event is still happening.

OC Parks is offering a family-friendly hike at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach on New Years Day. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

OC Parks is also hosting a family friendly guided hike at Upper Newport Bay with a 2-to-3 mile walk along the bay’s west bluff, a way to see migratory birds and the unique estuary landscape.

It starts at 1 p.m. and is expected to last two hours, meet at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.

Space is limited, so registration is suggested at letsgooutside.org

A bright start to 2022

There are a few holiday light shows that will be wrapping up soon, including  GLOW at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes.

GLOW, short for Garden Lights and Ocean Waters, includes food, drinks, music, interactive exhibits and a thousands of lights decorating the landscape.

The interactive light exhibit GLOW (Garden Lights Ocean Waters) runs through Jan. 17, 2022 at South Coast Botanic Garden in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

“Visitors can party on the beach, drink cocktails on the bayou and chase waterfalls,” the event’s organizers said.

The show goes through Jan. 17 at the South Coast Botanic Garden. Tickets are $35 for non-members and $25 for members. More information: southcoastbotanicgarden.org

It’s also the final weekend for the Night of Lights OC, an interactive winter wonderland drive-thru experience at the OC Fair, which has its last day on Jan. 2.

The mile-long, drive-thru course is filled with “a million lights, themed holiday scenery and immersive vignettes, animated light shows and light tunnels synchronized to music, snow flurries, and more,” the event description said.

The Night of Lights OC drive-thru experience at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa is still happening through the New Year, so if you missed it there’s still time to check it out. The production has over a million lights and includes costumed live actors, snowflake dancers and will include evening drive in movie showings. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

General admission is $39.99 for up to five people per vehicle. Purchase tickets or get  more info: NightOfLightsOC.com.

Head inland to catch the final days of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa’s Festival of Lights, one of the nation’s largest holiday light collections. The downtown Riverside historic hotel is one of the big holiday draws in the area, see it before it’s gone Jan. 6.

Run into the new year

The annual Run In The New Year event will again take place at Bolsa Chica State Beach starting at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

This is no ordinary race, with a group of big costumed penguins at each start and plenty of people bringing new year’s cheer to the day with hats and other festive décor.

Runs range from the half marathon, which starts at 8 a.m., to a 5K and 10K that start at 9 a.m. Meet at Lot 25. There’s a special pancake breakfast put on by the Kiwanis Club.

The course is on the paved path, making it a great route for whatever your run style is. More info at: runsignup.com

Splash into the new year

Who doesn’t want to wash off 2021?

The brave will be taking a chilly dip into the Pacific Ocean to start the new year.

While there are several smaller New Year’s Day splash gatherings planned along the Southern California coast, two have grown in popularity through the decades.

The Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears have been hosting a plunge in San Pedro that goes back as far as can be remembered. In the earlier years it was called King Neptune because “the king would come ashore in a boat and lead the crowd back into the water at noon each New Year’s Day,” event organizers explain online.

The Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears have been hosting the New Year’s Day plunge for decades, leading people who take a dip on Jan. 1 into the ocean for a chilly start to the New Year at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. ( Photo by Stephen Carr, Daily Breeze / SCNG )

These days, the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears, which formed in the ’50s, name a king and queen who are crowned at 11:30 a.m. and lead the New Year’s Day crowd into the water at noon.

After a brief swim or just a dip, everyone gets an official certificate and can sip on some coffee, hot cocoa and munch on cupcakes provided by the Lady Polar Bears.

The Cabrillo New Year’s Day dip is free to the public.

Friends celebrate on the beach during the 2020 Surf City Splash in Huntington Beach. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

In Huntington Beach, the Surf City Splash is always popular at the pier with a noon countdown for rushing into the chilly water.

The morning kicks off with registration at 9 a.m., along with a pancake breakfast at Zack’s Concessions on the north side of the pier.

Along with the cold dip there will be vendors on the plaza, entertainment by local artists and a costume contest.

Cost is $25, which includes the pancake breakfast, a T-shirt and a “Certification of Success,” with a portion of the proceeds going to the Surfrider Foundation Huntington Beach chapter.

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